Thursday, May 15, 2014

Ash-Shidyaq's ''Leg over Leg'' translated

At the occasion of the apearance of a English translation of Ahmad Faris Ash-Shidyaq's As-Saq `ala-s-Saq the Los Angeles Review of Books writes a very positive review. It calls Humphrey Davies' translation, published in four dual-language volumes, ''a triumph'' no less. A-Shidyaq was one of the major literary instigators of Al-Nahda, the “renaissance” or “revival” of Arabic culture in the 1800s. The book was first published in 1855. ''Leg Over Leg'' is now published by the recently established series from NYU Press called The Library of Arabic Literature.
Excerpt from the review in the LARB:

Al-Shidyāq's arrival in English-language bookstores has a special timeliness in the fourth year of the Arab Spring; a poet, essayist, publisher, and newspaper editor, he is known as a pioneer of modern Arabic literature, and the father of Arabic journalism. He coined the modern Arab words for democracy, socialism, newspaper, and election. Perhaps portentously, his neologisms were threaded with subversive irony. He derived the translation for the thoroughly modern “newspaper” from a Classical Arabic term for Medieval Ottoman accounting books (jarīdah). The word he chose for election (entikhab) shares a three-letter root with the word for “ant-bites.” Not for nothing did al-Shidyāq work for one of the Ottoman Empire's propaganda organs, though that newspaper, Al Jawā'eb, was one of the more contrarian official publications.
The full title of this work is startling: Leg Over Leg, or The Turtle in the Tree, concerning The Fāriyāq; What Manner of Creature Might He Be; Otherwise Entitled Days, Months, and Years spent in Critical Examination of the Arabs and Their Non-Arab Peers. The title's physical and semantic evasions (one leg folded behind the other, or another's, leg), the explicit eroticism, and the superabundant logophilia are evident on every page, which would not make it any easier to translate.

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